Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Flashlights and Futility…

Here’s the post I promised you about the flashlight found at the Monmouth crime scene. The photo above is a 1907 Eveready Pocket Flashlight with factory engraving. The photo is from TheFlashlightMuseum.com and I’m using it as an example of what the flashlight might have looked like. As I said in the earlier post, the flashlight was found while removing a wire fence at the back of the Dawson’s property a few months after the murders. I have never found a description of the flashlight in any accounting of the crime so the picture above is purely a speculative representation. The flashlight is important because it either ties Monmouth to Colorado Springs or Monmouth to a suspect or both. The one detail that is consistent in all accounts is the flashlight had something “scratched” onto the metal body. Just what the scratching said is not clear at all. By the time a suspect was arrested in March of 1915 the flashlight itself had disappeared. The suspect’s name was Lovey Mitchell, a black man who had worked at the M&StL (Minneapolis and St. Louis) railroad roundhouse in Monmouth around the time of the murders. I’ll discuss the Mitchell arrest in a later post.  

I have four different phrases reported on the flashlight. The New York Times reported in 1915 the words “Colorado Springs” and “Lovey.” Pretty damning if true, however newspapers in Colorado reported the writing to say “Lovely, Colorado Springs.” The comma is paramount here as it’s the difference between a possible name (Lovely and Loving have both been reported as Mitchell’s first name) or a phrase you might find on a souvenir from a resort town like Colorado Springs. Another Colorado paper reported “Loving Colorado Springs.” The Monmouth Review-Atlas reported simply “Colorado Springs” in 1915, and in a 1984 article rehashing the incident the same paper reported “Colo. Sprig. Sept. 4.” The one running theme out of all of them is some mention of Colorado Springs. The Colorado papers and the New York Times would have received the news via the same wire service so that explains the variations of the name Lovey but was inclusion of the name just an embellishment to make the case stronger to the public? I have no idea. Whatever the answer, a trio of Monmouth lawyers had started a ball rolling that seemed very hard to stop now…

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